17 February, 2012

Spiritual Mayhem

“Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out…”  Acts 3:19 

Repent! The idea of repentance seems to be quite the controversial subject within the Body of Christ right now. Bring up the subject and some simply shy away from it, as if they are afraid of the word. Rather, I happen to think they are afraid of confronting and dealing with the controversy swirling around certain preachers and teachers who are now claiming in their preaching and writing that repentance is not necessary for salvation. I'll admit, it is not an easy thing to confront false teachers, especially when they pastor mega churches and have television programs that are seen around the world. Confront their error and it is going to get messy. It is inevitable, you will be the one attacked and accused of judging. (Those same people making such accusations would be pointing fingers at Jesus for driving the money changers out of the temple, so you are in good company.) You can count on it, you will be seen by many as the one trying to cause division because you are picking on their favorite preacher/teacher. Just earlier this week on a messaging board where I talk with other ministers, one of them made the observation, "The problem is that in our society today, if someone is on TV that automatically gives them credibility in some people's eyes, or at least more credibility that you or me if we're NOT on TV. The attitude is they must be right because they are on TV, and if you aren't on TV, then the attitude is, "Who are you?" if you dare to criticize them. My friend is absolutely right with this statement. Therefore, many have chosen to remain silent rather than be turned on themselves. I happen to believe that if I know the truth and I see someone being sucked in by false doctrine, I must speak out.  Think about it in these terms. You've probably seen those "Mayhem" advertisements put out by All State. In one of them, "Mayhem" is a GPS in a car and gives faulty directions which leads to a crash. Now, if you were in that car and the GPS gave out information that you knew was going to lead to disaster and possibly death, would you sit there quietly thinking that the driver would rather listen to the GPS than you, someone who knew the truth? I think most of us would speak up. It is still the drivers decision as to who he will follow, but you have to speak the truth in attempt to save someone from tragedy; right?  Well, we are dealing with something of FAR greater significance here. We are talking about eternal souls. I cannot speak for anyone else, but I'd rather speak up and run the risk of ridicule and making some folks mad, than sit quietly by and watch people head down a road that will damn their souls. (Yes, I hear you screaming at me that I'm being harsh and judgmental right now... but if you will read on, I will back my statements up with scripture. It really is that serious.)

Is repentance necessary for salvation? Some of the biggest preachers on television say it is not. But before I take their word for it, I think I'll examine this a bit further. Let's be clear that it is true that numerous Bible verses speak of the promise of salvation with no mention of repentance. In most of these verses we find that they say to “believe” on Jesus Christ and you shall be saved (Acts 16:31, Romans 10:9 et al.). Many preachers and Christians use these verses to justify their lack of speaking about repentance contending that it is not necessary for someone to be saved. One popular preacher is constantly mockingly saying to the church at large that if repentance was necessary, Paul would have spoken more about it. I say he did, even though he did not actually use the word "repentance" in most cases. He did however give instruction to the church to deal with unrepentant individual. The Bible tells us that we must "rightly divide the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15) and I contend that these teachers who hand select certain verses without "rightly dividing" the whole truth of the Bible. Their actions and teaching is absolute foolishness (although it sells to an unrepentant world!) because they are using just a few select verses to substantiate their teaching without even acknowledging the many other clear commands in Bible that speak clearly to salvation. The irresponsible use of God's Word in the teaching of these preachers could be likened to someone trying to put together something they took out of the package, but rather than following the detailed instructions, they instead choose to only do some of the instructions and ignore the rest. We all know that if someone did this, the finished product is most likely going to be somewhat different that what it was supposed to be. When they finished, they'd probably have some extra parts and be scratching their head and wondering where they were supposed to go. And something would no doubt be out of kilter.  Again, let's be totally clear, the Bible does state that someone must have faith and believe on Jesus in order to saved... but that is only part of the instructions given.  You see, the Bible is absolutely clear that God is holy and that man is sinful and because of sin there is a division or separation from man and God. (Read Isaiah 59:1-2) The Bible tells us that without repentance, sinful man cannot have fellowship with a holy God. These teachers will argue that we are preaching salvation by works, and rail against the Law. I think part of the problem is that they don't understand repentance. The word from which we get our word repentance comes from a military term that was used in marching the troops. To "repent" simply means to turn around and go the opposite direction. Today, we'd say, "about face!"  When we are commanded to "repent" it is more than a "changing of the mind" as on TV preacher is so fond of teaching. It has to go beyond an intellectual changing of the mind, and become a literal change of the way in which we live! Turn and go the other way! To repent means to "stop sinning." Yes, there is a changing of the mind, but that mind change also changes our behavior. Again, using our driving analogy, it is not enough to THINK a turn, I must actually turn the wheel in order to change directions. That same TV preacher and mega church pastor is often quoted as saying there is no need to confess our sins. But the Bible says in Proverbs 28:13, “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses them and renounces them (repentance) finds mercy.” I think I'll stick with the Bible here. These teachers will tell you that to "repent" means simply to change your mind about Christ... which again is true... but it also means to change your mind about sin! Now that you have changed your mind about Christ and hooked up with his team, it means you do a spiritual about-face, which in turn changes everything in your life as you discover what it really means to honor God with your life! You realize that it’s no longer about performance. It’s about a heart attitude that confesses Christ and seeks to honor Him in every aspect of life! If your mind has been change, it should naturally follow that the actions should change.

Last thing... I said earlier that I'd give Scripture to prove just how serious this really is. 1 John 1:5 - 10 says:  5This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
 6If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:
 7But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
 8If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
 10If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

First, God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. Dark and light cannot co-exist in the same place at the same time. If there is light, there will be no darkness. If there is darkness, there cannot be light. Pure and simple. John says, (my paraphrase) "You can say you are in Christ all you want, but the way you live proves the truth.  Words and 'confession' mean nothing without repentance."

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